Careers in health care include patient care, visitor relations, business functions and more! If you are considering a career in health care, becoming an observer of these roles may be of interest to you. An observership is an educational experience that allows you to shadow a member of the medical staff or workforce (a sponsor) and learn more about the field.

This experience may give you a better understanding of what a typical day is like for a wide range of roles tied to health care. Observerships are for educational purposes only.

Please review the information below carefully. Noncompliance with these expectations of behavior will result in the termination of your observership and privileges from the Department of Volunteer Services.

For international medical graduates who are interested in an observership program, please visit the Hospital Medicine Observership Program.

Who can apply to be an observer:

  • An individual who desires an in-person educational experience that is best acquired by closely observing or “shadowing” a health care worker.
  • Observers must be 15 or older.
  • Observers under the age of 18 must provide a signed parental consent form.
  • May include high school and college students, and those who are not currently enrolled in school but are interested in the health care industry.

Program Guidelines

  • An observership at Johns Hopkins Medicine:
  • Shall not exceed 100 hours over the course of 12 months.
  • Does not constitute medical training or award academic credit.
  • May be available at any of our participating entities:
    • The Johns Hopkins Hospital
    • Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center
    • Howard County General Hospital
    • Sibley Memorial Hospital
    • Suburban Hospital
    • Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital
    • Johns Hopkins Community Physicians

Prior to Beginning an Observership

The observer must identify and obtain agreement from a sponsor prior to applying for an observership. Once identified, the sponsor directs the observer to initiate a Request for an Observership with Johns Hopkins.

Observers are required to:

  • Create a user account in the online registration system.
  • Indicate the sponsor’s name and email on the application.
  • Confirm dates and location of the observership.
  • Complete and submit for approval the required documentation in the Johns Hopkins Observer Application.

    This includes:
  1. Parental consent, if under 18
  2. Required vaccination records
  3. Confidentiality Pledge for Visitors
  4. Bloodborne pathogen acknowledgement

The identified sponsor will receive a sponsor agreement via email from the online registration system. Once the sponsor signs the sponsor agreement, it is forwarded to the participating organization’s volunteer services department. The participating organization’s volunteer services department will ensure completion of all required observer documentation.

Once an Observership Begins

  • On the observer’s first day, the participating organization’s volunteer services department shall provide the observer with a temporary badge after ensuring completion of all observership documentation requirements.
    • Observers are not issued an employee ID badge, JHED ID, or keys.
    • Observers who have had a known exposure to a contagious agent, who have active colds or infections, or who do not feel well are not permitted in the health care facility.
  • The participating organization’s volunteer services department shall inform the observer about policy expectations, including:
    • Process for logging dates and hours spent observing into the electronic volunteer management system.
    • Requirement to be under the direct supervision of a sponsor/designee at all times while in a work area.
    • Proper attire while in the health care facility.
    • The observer shall not wear a lab coat or scrubs unless required for the observation area, and shall return to normal dress as soon as possible.
  • The sponsor/designee ensures that the student observer DOES NOT have physical contact with patients and does not have access to the electronic medical record system.
  • If the observership involves clinical care, patients have the right to refuse having an observer present during examinations and discussions. If a patient refuses to permit an observer to be present during examinations and discussions, the request must be honored.

How to Find a Sponsor

The Volunteer Services Office does not match individuals with observership opportunities. Prospective observers must independently research health care providers at Johns Hopkins hospitals or health care centers and secure observership dates with a sponsor. To find a physician or dentist, go to and click on “Doctors.”

While many Johns Hopkins providers enjoy teaching interested individuals about medicine, there is no guarantee or obligation for physicians to take on observers. Please be polite, and give physicians plenty of time to set up the observership, as well as the right to refuse.